Portsmouth family reflect on vital flight this World Prematurity Day
World Prematurity Day (17 November) is a global movement to raise awareness of premature birth and the impact it can have on families, like Dominic’s.
The joy of the arrival of a new born baby boy suddenly turning to despair at the thought of him being born over 200 miles away from his home.
That was the dilemma facing Andy and Rachel Fuller from Portsmouth, when their son Dominic was born prematurely on 27 October 2013 while his parents were on a short break in Grimsby, 225 miles away from home.
Vulnerable and in need of life-supporting intensive care, baby Dominic was taken to Grimsby Hospital where he was looked after by specialist teams.
However, it soon dawned on Andy and Rachel that they faced their baby’s first Christmas away from their family in Portsmouth. The journey home was at least five hours away by road, and Dominic was still far too fragile and delicate for such a journey, as he needed constant specialist attention, and any distress would have impacted him further.
That’s where the Children’s Air Ambulance made a vital difference.
On 30 October, the Children’s Air Ambulance was mobilised and transferred Dominic safely home. Dominic’s flight to Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth, was just 1hr 20 min, a huge time saving in comparison to a journey of 5 hours by road.
This came as a comfort and relief to his parents who said “the Children’s Air Ambulance is an unbelievable service; we just couldn’t believe it was there so quickly for Dominic, speed was so important there was no better way to get him home. It means everything to us to have our baby boy closer to home; at times like these you need the support network of your friends and family.”
Dr Steve Hancock, Critical Care Transport Consultant for Embrace, the Yorkshire & Humber Infant & Children’s Transport Service, who specialises in these types of urgent transfers, said: “Little Dominic needed to stay in hospital for a few more weeks because he was so small and premature, but he was 225 miles away from home and it was really important for us to get him back closer to his family in Portsmouth.
“He was still very vulnerable and a five-hour journey by land was not an option. By using TCAA we were able to safely transfer Dominic to Portsmouth and also get our specialist team back to our base, in Yorkshire, quickly so we were available to help other critically ill patients.”
Since Dominic’s transfer – 10 years ago – he’s had many key moments in his life, his first day at nursery, infant and then junior school, and his Christening. The most poignant moment was when he became an uncle for the first time at the age of eight and now has a niece, Amelia.
Dominic has a passion for football and enjoys nothing more than kicking a ball around the garden. He also loves school and in particular anything to do with maths, science, computers, and craft.
“He fully immerses himself into everything he does, there have been some challenges along the way Dominic has been diagnosed with hyper mobility, autism, and ADHD but that doesn’t hold him back from life. His plans for later life seem to change day to day depending on something he sees or hears but I am sure whatever he chooses he will enjoy,” expressed Rachel.
Over these 10 years, the Children’s Air Ambulance has developed into the pioneering service it is today. The charity collaborated with three Clinical Partner Teams – Embrace, Southwest Neonatal Advice and Retrieval (SoNAR) and Southampton Oxford Neonatal Transport (SONeT) – to create three bespoke state-of-the-art Neonatal Transport Systems (incubators), meaning it can fly even the smallest and most fragile of premature babies.
These incubators have been used over 70 times already this year, reducing the anxiety and worry of the parents, reducing the time taken for the infants to get the specialist support they need, and getting babies and families back together after they’ve had this specialist input, avoiding long road journeys, and reducing the time spent outside of hospital.
“We can never thank the service and partners enough for the miracle TCAA provided when Dominic was flown to be closer to home. The care and speed of transfer was unbelievable, and we were kept informed every step of the way with what was happening. Without the help we would most likely have had an extended stay with family until Dominic was considered strong enough to be transported by road,” said Rachel.
“We often talk fondly of our experience and have taken every opportunity to share our story with others, there are many little reminders dotted about the house from pencil toppers to pin badges, I don’t think we will ever forget what was done for us,” she added.